Femme45 are part of the new wave of Latin American dance music spreading through Glasgow, representing the crossover between traditional samba sounds and baile funk and drum & bass from Brazil, Colombia and Cuba. We spoke to the duo about their love for vinyl and radio, plus using music as a tool for resistance, community-building and belonging. Check their mix and read the interview below.
Kelburn Garden Party: Welcome Femme45! Let’s kick off with an introduction to your mix.
DJDakilei: High energy and hybrid sounds from around the world.
ReQuinha: We put a mix together which showcases that more upbeat sound, a bit akin to the set that we played at Kelburn in the Boat and at the Saloon.
KGP: You’re nearly two years into playing as Femme45. What inspired you to start DJing together?
ReQuinha: It happened quite organically. Leila and I met at a mutual friend’s house and we bonded over our shared love of, in particular, Brazilian music, but also collecting vinyls, and dancing and sharing music.
Leila came to play on one of my shows on Radio Buena Vida, and came up with the name Femme45, because of our love of vinyl. Someone asked us, “So, who are you guys?” They were loving the mix and the energy. We both looked at each other and were like, “Femme45”.
And then it took off from there. It’s been a whirlwind ever since.
KGP: What were your musical backgrounds before Femme45?
DJDakilei: I’ve always loved singing in choirs, in Glasgow especially with the Maryhill Integration Network Joyous Choir learning and sharing songs from around the world. That’s been a big part of my musical journey. I first started DJing at raves, spinning records into the early hours, dancing until the sun comes up. Then through the pandemic I had a show on Sunny Govan Radio, which was exploring music as a tool for resistance, from gospel to hip hop and reggae to tropicália.
ReQuinha: I’ve been collecting records for around 20 years, but it’s only in the last couple of years I started playing them out. It all started for me when I was a teenager with my first love, hip hop. That led into things like reggae and broken beat, and music like Quantic and Mr Scruff.
I have always been interested in rhythm and sounds from across the world, in particular a lot of percussion. I played in some samba bands. It was from playing back-to-back with some friends at after parties that I got invited to play on Radio Buena Vida, which led to a residency.
I’m part of another female-led collective now as well, called Sound Sistrenz, which is more reggae and roots.
KGP: Do you think there’s a connection between that collective singing in choirs and DJing?
DJDakilei: Definitely. There is so much power when people come together – the amazing uplifting sounds that you can create. I think it’s a similar energy to on the dance floor, people being unified through that shared love of music and feeling that same energy and groove. Same with the samba bands as well.
ReQuinha: I love that with things like the Joyous Choir and samba bands, there are no real barriers. You don’t need to speak the language. That’s a thing that’s really strong for both of us, being able to have that inclusive safe space where people can come and be part of something musically.
DJDakilei: I’ve spent a lot of time in Cuba and Rio and it’s a really amazing way to connect with people. In Cuba, people would be singing and jamming in the plazas and squares. I just loved that spontaneous jamming. Singing and percussion are something you could do anywhere and everywhere. It’s in the soul, isn’t it?
KGP: What first drew you both to Brazilian music and other Latin American musics?
ReQuinha: Brazilian music is something that bonded us big time because we both love all the different styles of Brazilian music, from the traditional samba sounds to the more modern baile funk and drum & bass, but also the afro influences around drumming and the rhythms.
We both spent quite a lot of time in Latin America, and it turns out that we’ve both got quite a lot of records in our collection from Cuba, Colombia, Brazil, the Andes and all over.
Also, it’s the music of revolution and resistance. There’s always a really strong movement of that in South America, of the people coming together for music no matter if you’re a teenager or in your seventies. It’s accessible to everyone.
KGP: What role do you think music can play in overcoming division?
DJDakilei: There was an amazing activist called Emma Goldman who said, “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution.” I think music is such a powerful way to unite people. History has shown how important music is in political movements, like the British sound system culture in the 70s and 80s.
ReQuinha: Especially in these times. There’s so much going on in the world, and sometimes it’s just having that space where you can be with other people and feel welcomed and safe. Music is unity. Even the vibrations of music can be so healing – you’ll often find us right up in front of big bassy stacks.
KGP: What were some of the first nights that you played together?
RebeQuinha: We started off doing more underground community-style gigs. We did a gig at Glasgow Autonomous Space (GAS), which was a really cool free party, and then we also had a gig at COP, the climate festival. So it’s very grassroots and community-based.
DJDakilei: We also were invited by the Decades of Dub crew to do a Poetry Club gig, that was so good as well.
ReQuinha: It was a picó sound system. There’s definitely an appetite for that tropical sound clash. A friend from Decades of Dub wanted to put a picó sound system night on, which is quite common in Latin America, and so we played at that. It was great fun. That was on 527 Soundsystem.
KGP: What’s the tropical sound system scene like in Glasgow?
DJDakilei: It is definitely growing. We’ve also been involved in this night called Duende, ran by our pal, Vardi, cumbia, salsa and tropical bassy sounds.
ReQuinha: We did two sellout gigs with Duende. The crowds were loving it. Everyone’s cha cha chaing and salsaing. I think it’s the uplifting and energetic sound that people connect with, even if you don’t understand what’s being said – it’s in Spanish or Brazilian Portuguese or whatever language it might be.
DJDakilei: At the beginning of the nights when it’s a bit quieter, a lot of people from the Latin American communities come and do salsa dancing, when there’s more space on the dance floor. It’s a really nice opportunity to play more traditional salsa records before moving into electronic bassy stuff.
ReQuinha: When we were in Aberdeen, we met this Peruvian woman. I was playing “Afro” by Novalima, and she was like, “Wow, that’s from Peru!” It’s really nice to have that sound that people connect with and feel that sense of belonging.
KGP: Which gigs have stood out for you over the past couple of years?
DJDakilei: We loved the Woodland Weekender, playing the Mighty Oak Sound System. It sounded incredible and in the most stunning location in the trees. We started off playing Andean Folkloric records, with lots of Quena (flute) sounds, which felt really special and magical in that setting. We were also in Bristol recently at The Jam Jar, which was amazing. We were playing after David Walters.
ReQuinha: Some of our absolute favourites play there. Not only did we get to play, but we got to take our vinyls from Scotland. We took them on our EasyJet flight in hand luggage. The crowd appreciated that. It’s so cool, because we’ve been collecting records and now we’re getting to share that with other people.
KGP: What can we expect next for Femme45?
ReQuinha: We’ve got lots of exciting things in the pipeline. Before the end of the year we’ve got a couple of big gigs coming up. We’ve got another Duende night. We’re going to be doing the second room at the Mungo’s Hi Fi Glasgow gig, which is huge. We love Mungo’s, so to be playing on the same night and then also alongside like our pal, Ben Vardi, who organises the Duende nights.
And then after the new year, we’re looking to expand that collective idea and bring more of our friends in and do more events around Glasgow and beyond.
DJDakilei: We want to put on our own nights and platform other DJs as well, and celebrate the sounds that we love so much. We have not put on our own events before so it’s something we are excited about for 2024.
What’s a highlight for you from Kelburn Garden Party?
ReQuinha: The Viewpoint Stage is one of our all-time favourite stages. We’ve done a couple of daytime gigs there over the last couple of years. But the Boat Party and the Saloon were highlights because of the high energy. They were later sets, so they got a bit more bassy and rhythmic. We went in with some leftfield stuff, like garage and drum & bass, and everyone was dancing and dancing together. That really stood out for us – a pinch yourself kind of moment.